November 2012 | Commentary | IT Matters

Embarking On an IT Modernization Journey

Tags: Logistics I.T.

Steve Biondi is President, North American Operations, Micro Focus, 203-231-4131

Planes, trains, and automobiles represent just a few possibilities to consider when moving an object from Point A to Point B. To secure a competitive advantage, shippers must ensure the transportation services they buy are safe, modern, reliable, and competitively priced.

Many transportation providers have realized these goals by investing in an information technology (IT) infrastructure that optimizes core systems workloads, and hones in on an application mix for business efficiency, ultimately ensuring that value and reliability are passed along to shippers.

Maintaining a mainframe environment creates significant ongoing costs to support the necessary hardware, third-party software, maintenance, and facilities. Modernizing these critical mainframe systems can seem like a scary endeavor involving a lot of time, cost, and risk. But when approached in the right way, updating them can prove manageable, and bring great business benefits.

Assess First, Act Later

Before committing to a mainframe modernization project, it is imperative to first assess the IT portfolio. This provides a comprehensive view of the IT environment, making it easier to determine not only what is already fit for purpose today, but what areas are ripe for optimization. When evaluating existing applications, IT and business analysts must review metrics such as value, cost, strategic fit, redundancies, and dependencies.

Once these factors are evaluated, companies can consider modernizing application development, testing, capabilities, and underlying platform.

Taking the Leap

Class I railroad Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS), for example, elected to re-host its five core applications on a Linux platform to ensure the best application and platform mix was in place. In addition to saving $1 million in the first year, KCS reaped the benefits of its architectural strategy, and was able to improve its disaster recovery system, increase operational efficiency, and derive more value from its core system. This has allowed KCS to deliver great results to shippers.

Motor carrier USA Truck Inc. also wanted to retain a competitive advantage by offering shippers an effective way to optimize internal IT operations. Having recently implemented new technologies such as satellite equipment tracking and close integration through third-party partners, USA Truck needed a quicker way to report and assess critical business data. By moving a substantial amount of the mainframe workload to a virtualized server, USA Truck realized significant cost savings and improved its reporting and business intelligence capabilities.

This modernization project also made USA Truck less dependent on already sparse mainframe skills, which, in turn, made it easier to recruit IT talent.

In the transportation industry, delivering customer satisfaction is key. This means providers need to be flexible and reliable—providing unfettered access to core business services and adapting to deliver what end users need. As KCS and USA Truck illustrate, the IT modernization process can help transportation providers serve shippers with unparalleled speed and cost efficiency.